One thing every designer needs is to practice observing. We need to learn to see everything — whether mundane or not — as a creative learning experience. This ability leads to creative problem-solving on a more consistent basis.
So, why is this important?
As designers we need to constantly expand our visual vocabulary. What I mean is that our memories and thoughts need to have material to feed upon. With new input comes new combinations of seemingly unrelated things. This leads to surprisingly creative insights. Our brains are already making connections and solving problems when we are not always intentionally thinking about it. Why not give it new information to build a storehouse of material to use in the process?
Where do we go for inspiration?
Of course we visit other creative people's websites, view portfolios, maybe pick up a design annual or two. But that can often lead to "me-too" design rather than something truly creative. True, we can often use what we see in totally different combinations to create something new. But there's no need to limit ourselves to these.
- I would suggest observing different architectural buildings for a start. Ask yourself, "Why does this work?", or "What bothers me about this?" This can lead to seeing these structures in a whole new light.
- Observe nature. The forms, shapes, functions, and colors can give rise to all sorts of creative insights.
- Visit an art museum, art or framing store, or even a craft show. The creative beauty and skill displayed is enough to inspire all sorts of creative thought. Bring a sketchbook with you too, because the process of drawing helps build creative muscle.
- Look for antique shops and yard sales. If you can, take a camera and get some pictures of various objects. Just viewing these types of objects will not only connect us to periods in the past, but to unusual shapes and forms that we don't always interact with in our computerized world.
If you have any more suggestions, please comment below.
Photo courtesy taylorschlades of morgueFile.com